On the Wellness Industry

In general, I'm a bit too critical of the medical field.

I'm aware of the extreme conflicts of interest that exist between doctors and pharmaceutical and medical device companies, as well as some serious limitations in medical training, which barely glosses over the most basic practices for well-being (nutrition and exercise).

I sought holistic health as a way for me to fill the gaps in my ability to care for my whole being for the long haul, not just to treat the sick parts of my body when they became intolerable. I particularly found the field of mental health treatment to be almost comically underdeveloped. Dealing with a mix of depression, anxiety and a very unhappy home life as a teen, I had been prescribed so many different medications by age 20 that I couldn't keep track, or even remember how I "normally" functioned. They all had side effects that impeded on my physical, and sometimes mental health and I knew that path would not lead me where I wanted to go.

Additionally, I was seeking a home for spiritual practice. Church never jived with me, but I did come to find great value in meditating and chanting in sacred places. Ultimately, these practices have been far more helpful in my personal psychological development than any medication. They became my bridge to a deeper understanding of health that extended to include the spirit. 

Although physical health, mental health and spiritual health have historically been deeply intertwined, modern medicine has created an intense separation between the realms. But as the wellness industry strives to infuse all of these elements into one ingestible (and pricey!) cocktail, we should be more skeptical than ever about who these salespeople are and what they are selling us.  As any industry is bound to be, the wellness industry is also conflicted and limited. Hey, egos are involved, right? However, in my opinion, what is more scary about this industry is the lack of in-depth training, research, credentials and tbh, evidence present. And all too often in this field, your soul is the bottom line.

With fear of death fueling the drive for "wellness," fear of the afterlife is too often fueling the drive for "spiritual healing." When I've done work in the spirit realm with others, people have literally looked at me like I know their soul better than they do. An extreme vulnerability is created in this work that must be met with the utmost sensitivity and empowerment. And that takes A LOT of training, practice and mentorship to become more self-aware. 

What also angers me is that I do have many highly-trained, certified, master-degreed, well-practiced friends who are herbalists, doulas, creative therapists, yoga teachers and reiki healers. And sadly, their fields of practice are harmed each time an absolutist takes an expensive trip to Nepal and returns with a self-appointed, self-created title such as "mindset coach," charging more per session than an actual licensed therapist, claiming that the proper credentialing process "offers no real value" (one started following me on IG last week, I asked him A LOT of questions). 

I have so much more to say on this topic, but if anyone has even made it this far, let me end with this: Just because yoga and eating veggies works for me, I am in NO position to claim others will enjoy it, let alone benefit from it. What basis do I have for saying that, other than my own subjective experience? Jainism, one of the oldest and rarest religions practiced on Earth, teaches that we are each a unique representation of the Divine, with direct access to our Source at any time, and the task of this life is to shed the karma that keeps us from realizing our Holiness. The truth is, not only can we save our own souls, but we are the only ones who can. Remembering this is the practice. 

On Perfection

What does it mean to be perfect, anyway?

12+ years of school conditioned us to be graded by others, to feel valuable because they have deemed us worthy. And unfortunately, the ruler we learned to measure ourselves by has nothing to do with our own goals or values.

A friend recently said to me, “perfectionism is not the quest for the best - it’s the search to prove that the worst exists within ourselves; to prove we’re not yet worthy of happiness, love, abundance.”

It’s natural to want to do out best, but when we’re demanding perfection from ourselves, what are we asking for? Aren’t we really just insisting that we aren’t yet content with whoever we are, however things are? I used to not do anything unless I thought everyone approved of it .. you can imagine how paralyzing that was for me, because it is truly an impossible task. Not only did I set myself up for failure, but ultimately, I was always the one who was left unsatisfied.

So does to attempt to be perfect really mean to fail to realize you already are enough? To subscribe to the delusion you are somehow insufficient, incomplete, as you are right now? There are countless billion-dollar industries making daily profits off of the millions of people trapped in this delusion. 

Just the other day, I was taking a Bikrim yoga class. Even though I know it hurts my knees to straighten them completely in standing poses, when the teacher instructed me to do so, it seemed to prove too great a challenge to resist her request. Now my knees hurt and it takes strength and consciousness to be easy and loving with myself, to take space for rest and healing. And it reminded me of the truth that each person's "perfect" is entirely unique to them.

The part of us that wants to obey and excel at the impossible standards created by others internalizes those voices. Sometimes, they become louder than our own hearts. It is an act of spiritual courage to say, “I am enough, as I am.” This realization is our return to wholeness.  

 

Your Illness is Your Greatest Teacher

“When you have insomnia, you're never really asleep, and you're never really awake. With insomnia, nothing's real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy.” - Chuck Palahniuk

 

This past winter, I had insomnia….v bad. No matter how much I meditated, my mind was always racing. It wouldn’t let me sleep, so I was perpetually exhausted. In my exhaustion, I couldn’t exercise, practice yoga or cook myself meals. I even stopped being able to show up for my job as a career counselor and teacher. I was never asleep, but I was never really awake… I was dying and I didn’t even have the energy to resist it...

At my worst, I remember feeling like my mind and body had both turned on me, and we were no longer in a supportive relationship with one another. I was forced to realize I had way too many external things in my life to maintain balance, and what was being thrown the most off balance was my inner self. I had forgotten to pay attention to my spirit.

So I had no choice, but to just stop. Everything. And little by little, with each thing I released from my life, I began to heal.

My romantic relationship came to an end. I quit my full-time job in favor of teaching more yoga. I started spending more and more time alone, in restorative yoga poses, or reading about self-love. I started eating more warm, heavy, nourishing and grounding foods. I started doing things that made me feel good again, that had nothing to do with clients or partners. I traveled to Paris to see my best friend who had moved away. I saw a new place and it gifted me with new eyes, as traveling always magically does. And I continued to heal.

But the hardest part about working through all of this was coming to terms with the reality that even though I am a healer, I needed to be healed. And this time, no one else could heal me, but me. And isn’t this the gem at the heart of why we become healers to begin with? We must first, and continuously, work to heal ourselves. 

And through accepting this truth, I became a better yoga teacher. I learned how to create the remedy for my illness, to receive the medicine and to offer it to others. This is alchemy. This is collective healing. And this makes me so grateful for all of it.

Chiron, the Wounded Healer, is a comet that appears in our astrological birth charts. He shows up in the area of our lives where we can provide great help and insight, because that is where our own personal healing lies. He represents the archetype of the Shaman, the Heirophant in the Tarot - the one who is brave enough to continuously travel into the darkness just to find the Light. And we all have this inside of us.

It’s OK to not be OK. It is part of being alive. And until we believe that, we will continue to reject the pieces of ourselves that need the most healing. And we will continue to resist our own alchemical powers, our unique ability to transform pain into gold.

Animal Medicine: Pigeon

The pigeon is a highly undervalued animal. Because they are so abundant, especially for those of us living in NYC, we rarely appreciate them. Some of us even view them as a dirty or scary.

It’s true that pigeons are ground feeders, so they spend a great deal of their time with their beak pecking at the earth. However, pigeons are akin to doves, the holy bird of peace and love.

All birds are sacred, living their life among the heavens, viewing the world from above - and pigeon is no exception. The unique medicine pigeon brings us is that, while they have the option to fly, they choose to spend much time on land.

They are powerful messengers from the gods, bringing word of the holiness of our connection to Mother Earth. Pigeon always finds their way back home. Thus, they are said to symbolize home and security, our basic needs, associated with our root chakra. This brings along with it a strong maternal and creative energy.

This bird reminds us of the soothing, motherly energy available with at any time, and that inner peace is also just a few deep breaths away.

Because pigeon lives within both heaven and earth, their emotional spectrum is also broad. While symbolic of love and creation, this animal is also associated with darker emotions, which is reflected in the sound of its mournful coo. But this also enables the pigeon to represent emotional release - enter yoga's pigeon pose.

It is said that if pigeon or dove calls to you, you are being asked to let go of any inner emotional disharmony, past or present. To do this, one must journey within and lovingly release any old trauma stored in the body. Coincidentally, pigeon pose (eka pada rajakapotasana) opens up the psoas and piriformis muscles, which are frequently associated with holding deep emotions. So take a deep breath, let your muscles relax, send yourself love and allow your body to reconnect to the earth. This will enable your spirit to reconnect to its source, too.


 

Yoga: Build Heat to Purify

One of the Niyamas, or commitments, that we strive for in the tradition of Ashtanga yoga is called tapas, which literally translates to “heat.”

Physically, we create heat in our bodies through yoga asana, warming up our muscles so we can build strength and melt away tension. But the philosophy behind tapas is actually similar to that behind asceticism. Tapas is the practice of intense self-discipline that helps us attain stronger willpower.

Simply stated, tapas is doing something that you do not want to do that will have a positive effect on your life. When the desires of the mind are withheld through the use of willpower, an internal “fire” is cultivated. This fire illuminates our mental impurities and burns them away. Ancient yogis have learned that the practice of tapas can create more spiritual energy and lead to enlightenment.

Physically, tapas can be created through holding poses longer than we want to until we experience a sense of breakthrough in our self-imposed limits. Spiritually, tapas may be birthed through abstaining from an addiction, and the realization that you are stronger than your desires. Tapas transforms us through this purification, bringing conscious awareness and control over our unconscious impulses.

Just as the season of winter, where trees shed their old leaves, focus their energy inward and prepare to transform in the spring, we must also harness our energy to bring light to those behaviors that are not serving us. Through this practice, we build the strength willpower to become more dedicated to our practice of yoga.

Astrology: Taurus Qualities and Karma

Hello fellow Taurus friends, 

If you were born between April 21st and May 20th, your astrological sun sign is Taurus, the bull, like me! So what does this mean and how can we use this idea to gain a better understanding of ourselves? First, let’s breakdown what astrology is all about.

For thousands of years, cultures have noticed that people who are born around similar times possess many similar personality traits. It is thought that the position of the stars at the time of our birth determines what type of energy we bring into the world, as if we are just a microcosm of the macrocosmos. 

Let’s take Taurus as our example. Born in the Spring, Taurus babies possess many of the season’s qualities. Taurus is an Earth sign, meaning it’s all about cultivation and growth. Taurus may not be the spark that starts the fire, but is definitely the wood that keeps the fire burning. 

Like Spring, this sign is all about creating and manifesting in the material world. Because of this, Taurus has a great appreciation for beauty and a deep belief in abundance (think about nature itself). Taureans believe in their inherent self-worth as a creation of Mother Nature.

But the great irony of this source of strength is that it can also be the source of our weakness. Tauruses can be possessive and greedy. On their challenging days, they can experience fear of scarcity - of not having or even being enough.

Taurus babies can always look to nature as an example of the natural ebbs and flows of the universe. Earth experiences seasons in order to continue to be abundant. Winter comes to eliminate what is no longer needed so that new life can thrive in the Spring. 

Remembering this cycle can remind us that when there seems to be scarcity, we are actually preparing and re-engergizing for future manifestation. Appreciate this time! Use it to take good care of yourself and get strong for what's to come. 

Astrology: North + South Nodes

One of the things I love about astrology is its compatibility with Yogic philosophy and Ayurvedic medicine. An overlapping concept I have recently been studying is the idea of our past life karma and our present life dharma.

Karma means action in Sanskrit. It refers to both past actions we have taken, as well as the resulting actions that occur. Karma occurs both within a lifetime and is also thought to be carried over between lifetimes.

Dharma refers to cosmic order and law that makes life possible, as well as one’s own individual duty in this lifetime. When we follow our dharma, we are doing our part to uphold this cosmic order.

These two concepts appear in our astrological birth chart as the North and South Nodes. Nodes can be understood in our chart like the poles of the Earth, because they are located directly opposite from each other. They show us where we are coming from and what direction we are headed in.

South Node = Past life karma. Where you find your South Node in your natal chart designates what behaviors, qualities and ideas you are born to work toward releasing. These may be the habits or patterns that are most challenging to break.

North Node = Present life dharma. As one grows and shifts away from the tendencies of their South Node, they can look to where the North Node is located in their natal chart to find where to put their energy and focus. This is one’s main purpose in this lifetime.

Just as the stars and planets move through orbit, so do our Nodes. Their orbit’s cycle is 19 years long. When the Nodes return to their home in our chart, we may feel settled in completion, while simultaneously feeling as if we are beginning again all at once - just think about being 19 years old.

This also means every 9.5 years, our Nodes oppose each other in transit, when our South Node and North Node are located exactly opposite in their orbit as they were when we were born. The effects of this are actually quite cool. As my teacher explained to me, this is the time when we most actively work out old karmas through present day situations. 

We may experience eerily familiar occurrences or relationships during this period. It might feel as though we are in a deep cycle that is difficult to escape. What can help us again here is to come back to our meditation and actively let go of any story we are telling ourselves. Remind yourself that the story’s accuracy may be influenced by impressions from past events in this life or even in past lifetimes. 

Yoga: Practice Letting Go

Buddha said that all suffering is caused by our attachments to people, situations and things. He taught that by learning to let go of these impermanent states of being, we can liberate ourselves and achieve nirvana. 

Similarly, in the tradition of Ashtanga yoga, one of the areas of practice, study, and commitment known as the yamas, is aparigrapha, which literally means "not grasping."

This which can be interpreted in many ways, including:

Non-hoarding

Non-attachment

Non-greed

Non-envy

Non-possessiveness

When we cling to the old, we surrender the valuable space needed to receive the new. This concept can be applied to material possessions, relationships, and also to intangible things like thoughts and ideas. 

The beginning months of the year often hold a theme of letting go to make space for change to come into our lives. The trees release all their leaves and the dead of winter sets in, purifying the land. Many of us cleaned out what we no longer needed from our closets, our homes, even our lives. This cleansing is a beautiful example of how to practice aparigraha on a physical level.

But as springtime sets in, how can we align with the kapha energy of the planet and continue to cultivate this practice on a deeper level? How can we practice non-grasping in our minds and hearts, so that the seeds of change we're planting have room to bloom inside us? Seated meditation practice is always a great place to start.

Through meditation practice, we can develop awareness of the thoughts that run wild through our mind. We begin to notice that within our thoughts, we are replaying stories through which we come to understand our daily lives. But often, the narratives we believe cause us suffering.

Begin to observe the narrative that is constantly projecting on your mental screen with detachment. Is this a story that would support the well-being of someone's mind, body and soul? The story is serving a purpose for you, so ask without judgement, why did you write it? What could come into your life if you let go of your old stories, making the space to rewrite them for yourself?

Astrology: Return of Saturn

At the end of our 20’s, we will all experience an astrological phenomenon known as the Return of Saturn.

During this time, we might feel intense shifts in our inner selves as well as in our outer lives. We may change careers, relationships, locations, or in other ways come into a deeper sense of our reason for being on this planet.

According to astrology, the planet Saturn has a strong influence in our lives as a great teacher. He comes in to ensure we are aligning with our dharma, or our true purpose in life. Just as Saturn is surrounded by rings, or limits, the planet brings with it the awareness of our own limitations. Saturn teaches us through helping us define and focus on what is really important.

When Saturn “returns”in your life, this means the planet has completed one full orbit, and found itself back at the same place it was when you were born. Saturn’s orbit is almost 29 years long, so this period usually occurs around age 28, and again around age 56 (and also 84 if we are lucky!). Each time its effect can be felt for about one year. When Saturn transitions into its next orbit in our lifetime, it can feel like a time of rebirth. However, if we are not living in line with our true purpose, this period can feel more like a rude awakening. 

Saturn directs attention to our foundation, testing the solidity of what we have built it on. Then Saturn shows us where there are cracks in our foundation, beginning to crumble away anything that is not in line with our dharma like sand. This shifting of our foundation can occur through external changes in life, as well as through changes in internal understanding of how we view the world and our place in it.

Saturn also directs our attention to the places in which we are limiting ourselves. He asks us to get clear about what our limitations are and urges to push ourselves us to transform. These limitations often present themselves as stories or beliefs that we have held onto for a very long time, but no longer serve us. 

Saturn asks us to be curious about who we will become as we choose to release these limiting beliefs about ourselves and how we relate to the world around us. Saturn guides us in rebuilding our foundation on truth, in alignment with our destiny. Saturn leads us in redefining who we want to be and what we want to do as we shed our rings.

Ayurveda: Primary Causes of Disease

In Ayurvedic Medicine, dis-ease is a state that arises when our mind, body and/or spirit is out of balance. The goal of Ayurveda is to restore balance. The main actions that cause imbalance are:

1. Misuse of the senses

This refers to any morally unwholesome action committed under the influence of sensual desire or to the inability to control one’s own senses.

2. Prajnaparadha - an offense against your natural wisdom 

This occurs when one part of you insists on an action that is detrimental to the rest of you. It is when deep down, you know something is not right for you, but you do it anyway.

3. Parinam - time in motion

This refers to the speed at which your internal state is moving. You can slow down the way you experience time and slow the aging process of the body.

4. The Ultimate Cause of Disease - forgetting your true nature. 

According to Vedic philosphy, when the fluctuations of the mind are settled, one abides in their true nature. This means not identifying too strongly with any experience, thought, emotion or state of being that we temporarily reside in, but getting familiar with who we are underneath those variables.

Ayurveda: The 3 Doshas

In Ayurveda, our Prakriti determines the bio-energy of our mind and body, called our Dosha. There are 3 Doshas, and each contains more of some elements than others and has it’s own distinguishable qualities:

Kapha (earth+water) - cold, oily, stable, heavy

Pitta (fire+water) - hot, dry, unstable, light

Vata (air+space) - cold, dry, mobile, light

The goal of Ayurvedic Medicine is to prevent illness through eating seasonal foods and herbs, and other behaviors that bring balance to your constitution. Foods that contain qualities similar to our Dosha will be aggravating to us, while foods that have the opposite qualities will help bring us to balance.

These bio-energies are reflected on the macro level as well. The Earth expresses the Doshas as seasons of the year:

Spring - Kapha season

Summer - Pitta season

Fall/Winter - Vata season

Time is also expressed through the Doshas:

2 - 6 - Vata time

6 - 10 - Kapha time

10 - 2 Pitta time

Ayurveda: The 5 Great Elements

According to Ayurvedic Medicine, an ancient living science of India, everything on earth is composed of the Panchmahabhutas, or 5 Great Elements:

Each element can be distinguished by a set of qualities:

Earth - cold, dry, stable, heavy

Water - cold, moist, stable, heavy

Fire - hot, dry, unstable, light

Air - cold, dry, mobile, light

Ether (Space) - cold, dry, unstable, light

Something’s unique constitution of these elements is called its Prakriti

People are also made up of a special combitation of the elements, containing more of some elements than others. Each person’s Prakriti determines what physical characteristics and energetic patterns they embody.

Prakriti informs you what your primary tendencies are, and enables the ability for you to practice preventative medicine.